Where to Go Next: Hot Spots for 2006

  • 28 December 2005
  • USA

To inspire travelers’ adventures this year, Lonely Planet has just published the “Bluelist,” a 328-page compendium of top places to go and things to do around the world, compiled from our globe-girdling staff, authors and on-the-road travelers. In addition to profiles of 60 hotter-than-ever countries, the book contains 40 “bluelists” of recommendations in such categories as “Most Awesome Treks,” “Best Beaches to Swing a Hammock,” “Most Kid-Friendly Destinations,” “Biggest Adrenalin Rushes,” “Countries on the Rise,” and “Best Foodie Destinations.”

With these in mind, U.S-based Lonely Planet staffers were asked last month to choose their three top hot spots for 2006.  After compiling all their responses, Lonely Planet came up with its collective bluelist. Wondering where to go this year? Here are recommendations, along with selected staffers’ comments.

Number ten: Germany. As one staffer explained succinctly: “Two words: World Cup.”

Number nine: Colombia. “Now is the time to go,” one writer enthused. “Colombia is still well off the gringo trail and you’ll only have to share the swaying wax palms and sweaty salsa clubs with a handful of hardy travellers (and crowds of friendly Colombians). It’s modern, vibrant and one of the best value places in South America, allowing you to live it up without decimating your dinero.”

Number eight: India. “The tsunami in the south and the earthquake in the north have forced it back in the spotlight; people are interested in not only seeing this country but participating in its travel comeback (specifically in the areas affected). It also is on the forefront because of U.S. jobs moving in that direction; people are curious to know about it — it still seems exotic but safer and easier than it has in the past.”

Number seven: Canada. “From the urban pleasures of Toronto and Vancouver to the rural splendors of Nova Scotia and British Columbia,” one staffer wrote, “Canada offers a something-for-everyone assortment of close-to-home treasures.” Another focused on Quebec: “With the US dollar so weak against the Euro, and the rising price of airline tickets due to fuel costs, who can afford France? Luckily, the Canadian province of Quebec is close by, affordable and absolutely stunning. Montreal is a gorgeous, lively, cultured, bohemian and friendly city with incredible architecture, food and nightlife.”

Number six: Antarctica. As one staffer said, “It’s easy — March of the Penguins.”

Number five: Mexico.  “Ah, Mexico,” one writer sighed, “the culture, food, beaches, charm, value and proximity — a Mexico vacation can’t be beat!”  Another singled out “the whole Pacific coast of Mexico because with the exception of a few resort towns, it’s much less developed than the Yucatan side and it might not stay that way for long.” A third staffer was even more precise: “Oaxaca city and the coast of Oaxaca state because it’s so ‘real Mexico’ yet also has the sunny beaches we love so much.”

Number four: Croatia. Croatia was the top choice in the Lonely Planet poll last year and staffers cited the same attractions this time. As one summarized, “Even though Croatia made a quantum leap in popularity this year, it still offers travelers so much: a spectacularly beautiful coast and islands, great culture, history and cuisine, and the alluring combination of a reliable tourist infrastructure without the tourist crowds of its Mediterranean neighbors – and still at an affordable price!”

Number three: Nicaragua. One respondent wrote: “In 2004, there was a 16 percent increase in travel to Nicaragua, with the largest share of visitors coming from the United States. Nicaragua has been a hot surfing destination and has seen unprecedented surfing coverage in the press over the past year. It’s the one to watch in 2006 as the media attempt to find the ‘next Costa Rica.’” A second concurred, saying, “There’s a cool kid factor to visiting this place — it’s safe, the people are very friendly, there’s a lot to do, yet it still has this perception of being dangerous. It’s gonna pop, no doubt.”

Number two: China. One staffer said, “The Olympics are coming to Beijing in 2008, the Shanghai World Fair will be held in 2010, and people are finally beginning to recognize China as the world’s next economic superpower. They’re curious to know more.” A second focused on Beijing: “Beijing has so many famous Chinese historical landmarks, such as the Great Wall. The city is also filled with amazing gardens and temples.” A third touted Shanghai: “For those who do not know how to speak the Chinese language but want to experience some Chinese culture, Shanghai is perfect: a place that’s new to many, but with Western influences, flourishing businesses, exciting nightlife — and beautiful women with great skin! In 2006, Shanghai will be the new New York of the East.”

Number one: And the winner is — Argentina! “Why?” one staffer wrote. “It offers extraordinary natural beauty, it’s inexpensive, it’s culturally rich yet modern. Argentina is almost like the New Zealand of South America.” Another said: “This country is sizzling. It’s got fabulous culture, food, wine, countryside, outdoors (Patagonia anyone?); it’s welcoming to travelers, safe and still very affordable due to exchange rates. What more could anyone want?”

That’s our bluelist for 2006. What’s yours? Share your picks for 2006 at lonelyplanet.com/bluelist.  And happy travels in the new year!